How to Use Biblical Affirmations
Biblical affirmations are one form of help among many. I believe mental health issues require a holistic approach, treating body, mind, and spirit. Medication alone isn’t going to heal a mental health condition, but medication does treat physical causes enough to give us the clarity of mind to deal with the mental and spiritual aspects.
Scripture urges us to take every thought captive and bring it to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This process forces us to identify our thoughts. When we identify a negative thought, we can replace it with a positive alternative. That’s why we have to think about what we think.
I learned I could choose which thoughts and images I entertain in my mind.
I can rehearse negative affirmations or I can rehearse positive affirmations. That’s right. Affirmations can be negative or positive. Anything we say to ourselves affirms something we believe. Instead of affirming things like “I’m going to screw this up,” we can affirm, “God is in control and he is with me.”
In this way we begin to form a habit of discarding negative thoughts and rehearsing positive thoughts.
What kinds of things do you say to yourself?
Do you say things like, “I’m so stupid” or “I’ll never succeed”? These are negative affirmations. That’s right! Affirmations can be negative or positive. The more we say things like this, the deeper they become entrenched in our thinking. They become our default thoughts.
I suffered for years with negative thought habits and it grew worse and worse because I didn’t recognize it or realize I could change my thoughts.
By the way, I used to think affirmations were New Age mumbo-jumbo. But as I mentioned, affirmations are simply the things we say to ourselves. We affirm the things we believe. As Christians, we don’t really believe God made us stupid, defeated, or unlovable. We know God’s truth in the Bible says we are created in the image of God (and he’s not stupid!); we are overcomers in Christ; and we are loved more than we can imagine! It’s time we make our thoughts align with God’s truth.
How does the brain work?
Because I have bipolar disorder, I’ve learned a little about how my brain works. It’s a lot like gardening. When you think a thought for the first time, it wanders along the surface of your brain, trying to form connections to related thoughts. When you repeat that thought it forms a more direct path. As you continue to repeat that thought, it digs a trench deeper and deeper. Like water, our thoughts will follow the path of least resistance, so they will default to the deepest trenches.
Let me say that again. Our negative thoughts change our brain. They form deep trenches until they become our default thoughts.
I don’t like the idea of negative thoughts changing my brain. Yikes!
Fortunately, we can form new trenches with healthier thoughts. Let’s fill our minds with God’s truth and do the work of sowing positive thoughts until God’s word becomes our default thoughts.
As I suffered with depression, mania, anxiety, and other mental health struggles, I felt helpless to change. I knew the Bible said to “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about thing that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). But I didn’t know how to jump out of the deep thought ruts formed by years of negative thinking.
Change happens one thought at a time.
The Bible offers this explanation: “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). We formed negative thought habits one thought at a time. Now those deep trenches in our brains have become strongholds—default thought patterns that are difficult (but not impossible!) to change.
We begin by taking every thought captive. Identify negative thoughts as they occur and bring them to Christ. Discard unhelpful thoughts and replace them with God’s truth. As you begin to counter negative thoughts with positive ones, God’s truth will heal the deep trenches in your brain and form new ones based on God’s word.
To that end, I began creating affirmations from God’s word.
I would read a verse or two of Scripture and summarize it into a simple statement of faith. I began to fix my thoughts, one thought at a time. Sometimes I still defaulted to my negative thought rut. That’s to be expected. I simply identified the negative thought, gave it to Jesus, and replaced it with a positive alternative.
Over time, my thoughts have improved. Now my first instinct is more positive. Negative thoughts badger me less often. And I’m confident in how to deal with them when they do.